Wednesday, 25 December 2013


21st - 24th Dec 2013
Our host. Bwana Banana. He is rather camera shy.

As you are no doubt aware the 21st December is Sahagun Day. This is the day that all ex-15th/19th Hussars ( and 1 Regt RHA, for some reason ) celebrate the magnificent charge of the 15th Light Dragoons ( later Hussars ) which routed and put to flight two regiments of French near the Spanish town of Sahagun in 1808. 

We ( or at least I ) celebrated at another debauched feast that evening. I'm not quite sure that the others grasped the significance of this occasion.
This being the wet season there is normally a violent thunderstorm at some point in the afternoon and evening. During one of these a tree fell over the main electricity supply and we were plunged into darkness ( with battery power for emergency ) and on another the metal roof of the house was struck by lightening with a fearful bang. Lights out again and even the emergency farm generator was blown up. C'est la vie out here, but at least the internet works, intermittently.

Another slight disaster occurred when self and Gazza took the Range Rover into town to do some shopping. Talk about the blind leading the blind! At some point in the town centre the hydraulic steering packed up and much hassle to get it to a safe place. It looked as if half our vehicle fleet would be inop until after Christmas at least ( the nearest Landrover garage being in Lusaka, about 250 miles away and closed for the holiday anyway ). Fortunately Bwana B knew an engineer (ex-aircraft engineer ), Robin, who managed to fix it with the help of a hydraulic pipe mending expert.

Right: Teresa, the very jolly, and helpful, hydraulic pipe mender who, given the offending pipe, had it fixed in 15 minutes. A better service than you would get a most local workshops in UK I think. They have much experience in mending hydraulics due to all the mining operations in the area. It took a lot of dissembling and reassembling the engine, but all well that ends well. They need to be a resourceful bunch here.
Went on a walk around the farm to see a bit of local life. Still no sign of any wildlife, unless you count a few tiny frogs and birds and many insects. The 'dam' ( reservoir ) at the southern end is full of sewage; not the place for a refreshing dip, but still the locals fish it for no doubt highly polluted small fish. They use charity donated mosquito nets for fishing. Is that enterprising? Problem is they are then too wet, smell of fish and covered in sewage to use as mosquito nets.

Right: A local 'hut' near the dam. All mod-cons I expect but probably without TV or internet.

It doesn't get cold here in the evenings but Gazza insists that he feels chilly so occasionally huddles around a gas fire ( left ). He lost his white stick the other day because he had put it up against a white fridge and a white wall. We had a great 'hunt the stick' competition.
Right: Another magnificent pre-Christmas Sunday Lunch with a couple of local ex-pat families invited. The two wives very gallantly offered to do the cooking and a great roast beef, turkey etc. etc. feast ensued. Lots of crackers and paper hats. My diet has, unfortunately, gone for a ball of chalk.  
Left: Due to three Cresta riders being present we demonstrated and then got all the men present to participate in a Cresta 'Firework', something normally performed after races in the Sunny Bar at the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz. A bit of nonsense and Zambia is about as far from a winter sports venue as you can imagine.
Bwana B had gone to Johannesburg for a couple of days ( to buy bananas...don't ask ). On his return we all went off to collect another inmate for the farm; a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy which has been christened Rommel ( right ). This, unlike Mrs Potter and Mrs Perkins, the two terriers, is to be an 'outside' dog and it is hoped he will grow up to be a fearsome looking guard-dog.
Left: The house staff ( this is Martin the gardener ) brew their lunch on the lawn. This inevitably consists of mealy-meal with a sauce of some kind. I tried some. It was not too bad actually. The mealy-meal mash has the consistency and taste of rather bland and lumpy mashed potato/rice.
Another trip downtown to do yet more shopping, a constant task, and to visit the railway station. There is one train a week from Ndola, sometimes, which travels from top north through Ndola and Lusaka to Livingstone near Victoria Falls. It stops at about 50 little stations in between and takes over two days, unless it has a breakdown. It is cheap and I am told one travels in extreme discomfort. I'm not sure, even though I normally enjoy travelling by train, that I will risk this journey, although probably at no more risk of bed bugs than I experienced on the Ghan train in Oz to Darwin. The railway station was deserted except for a female security guard and a 'supervisor'. We were told we were not allowed inside until I said I was a senior British Rail manager on holiday and keen to see how railways such as this are so well run. We were then allowed onto the platform to see...a railway line, but NO PHOTOGRAPHS! and outside to clamber over a derelict locomotive ( above ) which looked as if it last ran about 80 years ago and was possibly designed personally by George Stephenson.

Right: Passing a local street-side market. One particularly 'traditionally built' and colourfully dressed lady selling dried fish became extremely agitated when I threatened to take her photograph. Can't think why. The others didn't seem to mind. I am always fascinated to see some of these ladies carrying enormous loads on their heads, perfectly balanced and seemingly oblivious to them, as per the old girl on the left of the pic.

Left: A dull but typical street in Ndola. Difficult to capture any particular scene which characterises the place. As said before, the architecture is functional and rudimentary. Driving around the town is relatively trouble free with no sign of aggressive driving even if some is a touch unpredictable. Drivers even stop considerately to let you reverse out into a busy main road. Driving on the main roads is a touch more hazardous, especially after dark ( trucks often have few lights ) and is discouraged. Lots of speed cameras are operated on main roads by the cops, with great enthusiasm. A good source of revenue, either governmental or personal, which they have probably learnt from the civilised west.

Just off the road towards Battledore Farm is this watering hole, the Second Chance Pub ( right ). We stopped for a beer and were cordially entertained by a group of locals. They turned out to be policemen, detectives they told us, and were most pleasant and chatty. One called himself Obama. We even bought them a drink. Most convivial amid some loud and jolly music.

Unfortunately, the senior guy amongst them ( the one in the pink shirt ) rather blotted his copybook when we were leaving by following us back to our car and rather forcefully suggested that we might contribute something ( money ) to 'make for him a Happy Christmas". We told him very politely to procreate and travel.

Christmas Day tomorrow when we hope to have a non-traditional celebration where all decorations, presents, and even the mention of 'Happy Christmas' are banned. The food and drink will undoubtedly be delicious and plentiful amid much happy banter and 'bah humbug'.


  1. Matt, great to see that you are on your adventures again and that, as usual, they are full of incident and amusement. I look forward to the next instalment with baited breathe. Thank you for your good wishes and I wish you a happy, interesting and safe New Year.

  2. I was searching for my hometown Ndola when I bumped into this article. It is always amusing to read about Ndola from a visitor's point of view. Did you visit the site of the famous Mukuyu Slave Tree around which Arab slave traders held slave markets in the nineteenth century? What about the place where the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold's place crashed in 1961? There is a rich and exciting history to Ndola. Thank you for this interesting article.